If police have reasonable suspicion to believe you’re involved in a crime, they’re legally allowed to detain you for a short period of time. Reasonable suspicion requires less evidence than probable cause but it basically means the officer has some specific reason to believe that you’re up to something. For example: police can legally stop someone who matches the description of a criminal suspect, a suspect who drops a suspicious object after seeing the police, or someone who runs away after seeing the police. Don’t ever run from the police! That’s part of what the officers can use for probable cause and they’ll run you down and make you regret it. If you see police approaching be calm and assert your rights if need be, but don’t run!
If they have reasonable suspicion to detain you, police may pat down the outside of your clothing to check for weapons but only if they have a basis for suspecting that you’re armed. If they feel a hard item that might be a weapon the police may pull it out of your pocket to check it out. Police may ask you to show them what’s in your pockets – remember you don’t have to do it emptying your pockets is the same as consenting to a search and you always have the right to refuse.
Attorney Don Pumphrey, Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney. Don has achieved over 100 not guilty verdicts at trial and over 2,000 dismissals.
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